At a time when almost everything is at a halt due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Filipino Audio-Visual industry is suffering from the suspension of work and cancellation of events as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease. While regular and contractual employees get to continue their tasks via alternative work arrangements and still get paid, most of the Audio-Visual (AV) industry workers are not as fortunate to have employment during the national state of calamity. These include freelancers—from talents, to production staff, and technical crew members who get paid on a "per day" basis, “no work, no pay” scheme, and have no direct employer to work for.
Photo from the set of "The Panti Sisters," one of the entries of Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2019
As the national film agency and whose stakeholders include audio-visual workers, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) created the Disaster/Emergency Assistance and Relief (DEAR) Program to assist its stakeholders during calamities and major disasters. This disaster-triggered funding mechanism of the FDCP came about as a response to the plight of freelance AV workers who have been displaced by the Enhanced Community Quarantine and consequent State of Calamity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The DEAR Program will be implemented through the FDCP National Registry, which maintains the database of the different sectors of the audio-visual industry including AV industry workers. FDCP supports and protects the interest of National Registry members by offering services that provide assistance in accessing social services, skills development workshops and programs, and basic legal assistance and work opportunities. Under the DEAR Program, the targeted support program DEAR ACTION! (For Displaced Freelance AV Workers) will provide financial assistance to disaster-affected freelance AV workers who suddenly lost work as a direct result of a major disaster. This income support program aims to complement the CAMP program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) which covers private companies whose employees regardless of status (regular, contractual, project-based) can receive P5,000 in assistance.
The DEAR ACTION! (For Displaced Freelance AV Workers) is for those who have become suddenly unemployed for at least five (5) work days as a direct result of a major disaster and are not eligible for other government-instituted benefits. The application for the DEAR program and the FDCP National Registry can happen concurrently. A flat rate cash financial assistance of P8,000 will be given to a displaced worker whose application has been approved. The one-time tax-free financial assistance aims to help beneficiaries with their expenses for personal needs, medical expenses, housing, rent, and other essential needs. FDCP emphasizes that DEAR benefits are not payable to individuals who are entitled to or qualified for regular unemployment compensation, waiting period credit, or benefits from the DOLE, Social Security System (SSS), their local government unit, their own employer, and similar agencies.
Photo from the set of "G!," one of the entries of Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2019
As a newly institutionalized program under the FDCP, the DEAR Program will not be limited to the COVID-19 situation but for future declared disasters as well. “The FDCP DEAR Program is not a one-off initiative. Though this was inspired by the COVID-19 crisis, we want to learn from this and make sure that the agency is better prepared in handling such cases in the future. As a permanent program of the FDCP, this disaster fund will be activated every time there is an emergency and a State of Calamity declared by the President,” said FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño-Seguerra.
Specifically in light of the COVID-19 situation, FDCP aims to be able to give financial aid to 2,000 audio-visual workers on its initial launch with funding coming from the Agency's own limited funds. Because of this, priority will be given to low-income individuals like technical crews and production staff whose needs are more immediate. The FDCP guarantees that it will be working to get more funds and hopes to expand its support to as many as 20,000 freelance AV workers to cover the other sectors in the industry through the program.
Diño expressed her gratitude to the FDCP Board of Trustees for swiftly giving the green light for the DEAR Program. She continued, “Thank you to DOLE for supporting our initiative. I believe that both of our agencies’ programs would really help our audio-visual industry workers who need aid in this time of difficulty.” She was pertaining to DOLE’s COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) and Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) that will provide financial assistance to disaster-affected employees (regular, contractual, project-based, seasonal, etc.) who are part of a company’s payroll.
“The audio-visual industry is unique. While we have the regular employees that can be covered by government instituted programs, there is the 70% of the workers in this industry who are not under an employer-employee relationship, without 13th month pay and leave credits. It's FDCP's goal to make sure that they are not left behind. They may not have an employer to run to, but they should have us, the government that they can turn to in these hard times. It’s time to band as one so we can look after our industry. We can weather this pandemic together,” assured Diño.
FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño-Seguerra and CMB Film Services workers at a Technical Working Group meeting in 2019
DEAR Program Qualifications and Application Process
Conditions of Unemployment
One of the following conditions of loss of unemployment or engagement from a company, or inability to perform services in self-employment must have occurred as a direct result of the disaster:
- The individual is unable to reach his/her workplace.
- The individual was scheduled to start work and the job no longer exists or the individual was unable to reach the job.
- The individual cannot work because of an injury or illness.
- The individual lost a majority of income or revenue because the employer or self-employed business was damaged, destroyed, or closed by the government temporarily or permanently
In order to qualify for this benefit, the individual must satisfy all of the following:
- The individual must have had at least five (5) work days of loss of employment or engagement during the declared dates of the major disaster.
- The individual’s engagement or self-employment must have been lost or interrupted as a direct result of a major disaster as declared by the President of the Republic of the Philippines.
- The individual must have been determined not otherwise eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits under any Local or National Law such as from SSS, DOLE, LGU, or from his/her own employer and similar agencies.
- The individual must prove that he/she is of low income and receives around P20,000 or less a month, has a package rate of P20,000 or less per project, or whose talent fee is around P3,000 or less per day.
To file a claim, individuals who are suddenly unemployed or suddenly out of work as a direct result of the disaster should contact the Film Development Council of the Philippines National Registry.
Applications for DEAR ACTION! (For Displaced Freelance AV Workers) must be filed within thirty (30 days) of the announcement of the activation of the DEAR Program through an FDCP Advisory released online and through mass media channels. Applicants must follow the instructions in the FDCP Advisory and file for an application based on the filing methods used by the Agency (i.e. in person, mail, telephone, or online)
Applicants are required to substantiate loss of employment or engagement or self-employment or to substantiate work that was to begin on or after the declared date of the disaster.
If documentary proof cannot be provided at the time the claim is filed, individuals have twenty-one (21) calendar days from the time of application to meet this requirement.
Requirements for Displaced Freelance AV Workers:
- Copy of current membership to the National Registry for Audio-Visual Workers (NRAW). As for non-members, applications may be lodged to NRAW concurrent with the DEAR application. In light of the COVID-19 situation, the NRAW processing fee is waived.
- Filled out DEAR ACTION! form (For Displaced Freelance AV Workers)
- Affidavit of Unemployment (template available on the website)
- Copy of latest income tax return (ITR) or any proof of income
- Proof of Engagement that Accounts for at least seven (7) work days of cancelled/suspended Work (during the declared period of the disaster)
e.g. Call Sheet, Contract of Service, Certificate of Engagement, or any Certification duly signed by the employer/producer
- Evidence of Unemployment (during the declared period of the disaster)
e.g. E-mails regarding suspension of work, Proof of Cancellation, etc.
- Copy of the Official Executive/Memorandum Order on the declaration for the State of Calamity
The DEAR Program is a government fund and in the spirit of serving the community and stakeholders, the beneficiary must commit to rendering return service by participating in at least two (2) FDCP-led or FDCP-supported events, activities, or projects as a volunteer worker or professional, serving in the capacity of his/her field. The return service must be rendered for free within two (2) years upon the receipt of the assistance.
Declaration and Agreement
Each approved beneficiary worker of DEAR must sign a Declaration and Agreement with FDCP, agreeing and abiding to all the terms of the Program and certifying that all details of the application and documents submitted are factual and authentic.
For inquiries, contact the FDCP National Registry through email@example.com or +63 917 800 3227.
The cover photo is from the set of "Lola Igna," Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2019 Best Picture.